Temporary moratorium on land clearing, deforestation will help with long term plans – Naturalist

“I think the states’ knee-jerk response to stop all activities is good for short term but we need to think long-term on how we must manage areas like these,” says naturalist and ECOMY CEO Andrew Sebastian.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 – While landslides are natural occurrences that happen in any part of the world, the clearing of trees in sensitive areas, hill slopes and near rivers, cannot be simply overlooked as they leave these places vulnerable and exposed to tragedies like the Batang Kali landslide and other events in the past, says Naturalist and ECOMY’s chief executive officer, Andrew Sebastian.

“Landslides can occur anywhere but we see it happening more in areas where there have been interferences from man such as in the case of the Highland Towers.. and the latest Batang Kali incident. It is all due to mainly poor planning on our part, poor monitoring and poor enforcement of law.”

Landslides that Malaysia has been seeing can be linked directly to man-made changes to the landscape and these include plantations and deforestation largely.

“If we can have a moratorium on clearing of forests, especially slopes and keeping to minimum deforestation or even a moratorium on deforestation for the next five years, it will give us a chance to take stock and plan ahead and how we manage ourselves in terms of landslides and flash floods.”

Andrew said the states must also stay focused during the monsoon season and avoid other tragedies, and most importantly, local councils, the forestry department, and agencies involved such as the drainage and irrigation departments as well as the public need to put in more effort to monitor and closely enforce laws that are meant to protect.

He said there was a need for mindfulness in the use of eco-tourism sites and facilities during the monsoon period.

Malaysia is blessed with a lot of eco-tourism and nature based products, such as its forests, highlands and waterfalls and these are popular destinations for both foreign and local tourists.

“But with the advent of the monsoon season however in December and January, a lot more mindfulness and planning has to be done in terms of any activities in areas that are prone to landslides, especially in built up areas and areas that have been cleared or somewhat modified from its natural state. And therein lies the problems with having man-made links to tragedies like what we have witnessed.”

Amid this, Andrew also said that careful consideration must also be made to ensure that people can still have their activities beyond the monsoon season.

“I think the states’ knee-jerk response to stop all activities is good for short term but we need to think long-term on how we must manage areas like these.

“Another thing for consideration is the plight of eco-tourism operators. They are usually caught in the middle because land use changes and disturbances in the forest and slopes happen upstream through no fault of theirs. The businesses of these eco-tourism operators will be affected and they will be paying the price for other people’s mistakes.”